Brussels Highlights w/ Thomas Konings

Housed in a picturesque former botanical garden, Botanique is one of the most well-known venues for experimental music in Belgium. The cultural hub boasts three distinctive rooms: the grand Orangerie with its spacious ambiance, the intimate Rotonde with its cozy, circular layout perfect for immersive experiences, and the versatile Witloof Bar, known for its underground vibe and compact size. Listen Festival and Botanique present a night loaded with concerts all over the iconic venue. We sat down with Botanique promotor Thomas Konings, discussing his job and favorite spots in Brussels.

The twenty-nine-year-old Thomas, born and bred in Antwerp, has been living in Brussels for six years now. Even before he was able to finish his thesis, he started working at Botanique, first in communication, later in programmation. He describes his own taste in music as wide, the perks of the best job in the world: ‘Thanks to working at Botanique, I discover so many different artists in the fields of pop, rock, electronica and experimental. Nowadays, I hesitate to box my musical tastes into neat genre categories. I've been doing some soul-searching on this matter. While I still observe distinct subcultures among our audiences, they no longer seem tied to a single music genre. Instead, they unite under different shared values and expressions of their culture. It's a fascinating shift.’  

Thomas describes Botanique as a venue focusing mostly on discovery and alternative music, due to the small sizes of its rooms. Botanique is subsidized by the Federation Wallonia-Brussels and as a result draws a huge part of its audience from this community. 

During this second consecutive year of collaboration with Listen Festival, Botanique targets live performances. All three rooms of the venue will be unlocked, offering a wide range of styles all centered around electronic music with influences from rock, pop and experimental music, allowing visitors to wander around the mighty complex and catch multiple concerts during the night. 

Thomas offers some personal advice for a wishlist: ‘LSDXOXO performs at the Orangerie. He is a reputed techno DJ from the USA who now offers a live show with a hint of dirty R’nB. Deli Girls plays in the Witloof Bar, a noisy duo combining industrial dancefloor forms with nu-metal and rap. HiTech takes over our Rotonde, for a Detroitian blend of electro and ghettotech. And we finish the night off with a party by Brussels based collectives Slagwerk and He4rtbroken. Their focus on new and cross-over sounds fits perfectly well with Botanique. 

Exclusively for Listen Festival, Thomas selected four highlights in Brussels to discover.

Food: Tokidoki

Tokidoki means “sometimes” in Japanese and is best known in Brussels as an intimate and in demand restaurant in St. Gilles. Slowly moving away from the Japanese cuisine it started off with, the restaurant now offers a contemporary style of cooking taking influences from many exciting food cultures from all over the world, while focusing on local ingredients and offering many plant-based options.  

Thomas: ‘I'm primarily a vegan eater and Tokidoki never disappoints with always at least one vegetarian option which is usually vegan. It's such a warm, welcoming spot with an easygoing atmosphere – definitely one of my personal favorites. My vegan lifestyle is mainly driven by ethical concerns, and secondly, for health benefits. On my last 'cheat day' I indulged in some cheese, and I must admit, it didn't sit well with me afterwards.’

Nature: Dudenpark

Dudenpark is a charming urban park in Forest/Vorst, known for its picturesque greenery, meandering pathways, and serene ambiance. It offers a peaceful retreat, 24 hectares or about the size of 32 soccer fields, for locals seeking relaxation and natural beauty in the heart of the city.

Thomas: ‘I'm lucky to call Dudenpark my neighbor, and my absolute go-to spot within the park is that grassy haven nestled at the base of the stairs near the Narafi building, just behind Union St. Gilloise's football pitch. This slope encircled by the park gives off such a cozy vibe. It's usually incredibly peaceful there, making it the perfect spot to unwind, catch some sun in the summer, and, in a way, it feels like my own personal garden.’

Hidden Gem: Cinema Aventure

Cinema Aventure is a well-regarded independent cinema located in the Gallery Du Centre close to Brouckère in downtown Brussels. It is known for its dedication to showcasing a diverse range of films, including international, art-house, classic, and avant-garde cinema. 

Thomas: ‘The setting is truly something special: nestled within a shopping gallery, hidden away behind rows of shiny nail studios, and adorned with vintage-style décor that includes a slightly weathered charm.  My journey into the world of cinema began during the pandemic when I grew weary of the constant digital distractions at home. I've come to cherish this newfound passion, and one of the standout films I've recently enjoyed is "Monster".’

Music: Montage

Thomas: ‘Montage is not really a place as such, but more an ephemeral collective moving from one venue to another. Their events, deeply rooted in the underground and community spirit, never fail to impress.. Reflecting earnestly on the Brussels club scene, they're dedicated to its evolution and improvement. Expect line-ups that are wildly innovative and experimental, set in the city's coolest venues like Recyclart, Au Kalme, and Reset.’  

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